Book Review: Darkmere (Helen Maslin)

Publisher: Chicken House

Pages: 368

Release Date: August 6th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer.

Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together – but instead, she’s drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.


I’ve been waiting for ages to read this book and finally caved in and bought it (I was trying to be good and save money but once again my reading urges got the better of me). I’ve followed Helen Maslin on Twitter for a while and heard a lot about the book and knew it sounded right up my street. After meeting her at the last #UKYAExtravaganza I couldn’t resist buying it any longer.

A word of warning: I wouldn’t recommend reading this alone if you’re easily scared! I was about half way through and reading it at home on my own and every little sound made me jump. We have a creaky old house, which doesn’t help, and when someone knocked on the door I’m pretty sure my heart stopped!

This is a dual narrative book, which I’m sometimes wary of: I always find that I prefer one to the other and just want to skip ahead to their bits. This wasn’t the case in this book though: both character’s stories were really compelling, and while I might get to the end of a Kate chapter and want to carry on reading her, I’d be sucked into Elinor’s story after a few short sentences.

Elinor’s story was really sad. I felt so badly for the two sisters who so disappointed their unsympathetic mother, and it was horrible to see their relationship fall apart. Elinor’s story came with a real sense of being trapped: in the castle, in her room, in an awful marriage. It reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper in some ways, which is one of my favourite stories. There was also some awful pregnancy/childbirth bits which made me sad/scared and should have come with a warning for a pregnant woman!

Kate’s story, on the other hand, was more relatable. We’ve all been there, trying to fit in with a new group of people, not able to really be yourself or truly relax around them. I felt Kate’s anxiety, especially around Leo. While I liked him instinctively at first, it soon faded as the castle brought out another side to him – I didn’t feel it changed him so much as revealed his true, rather manipulative self.

The book was full of surprises and never quite went where I expected it to. Both narratives are accompanied by a heavy sense of dread: you know it’s building up to something awful and the tension is almost unbearable. The Gothic setting of the castle only adds to this – you’re screaming at them in your head to get out of there but at the same time want to stick around and see what happens.

This book had me gripped and on the edge of my seat for the entire, creepy journey. I’m a big fan of the horror stories that are becoming popular in YA at the moment, and this sits among the best of them. I can’t wait to see what Helen Maslin has for us next!

Copy of an art exhibit

Check out my guest post from Darkmere author Helen Maslin

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